Secrets to success: Greensburg Central Catholic’s Rice brothers share unspoken signals

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Sunday, June 3, 2018 | 4:06 PM


James and Paul Rice share signals on the baseball field, unspoken messages to gain an edge when an opponent might least expect it.

The brothers aren't sharing those secrets publicly, at least not with Greensburg Central Catholic playing in the PIAA Class A baseball playoffs. But the codes come naturally enough, considering their brotherly bond.

The Rice brothers — James, a senior infielder/pitcher, and Paul, a sophomore catcher — helped GCC secure a third-place finish in the WPIAL and its fourth consecutive state playoff appearance, where the Centurions (14-6) will play DuBois Central Catholic (16-6) in the first round at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Richard L. Kuntz Memorial Field in Punxsutawney.

It's just the latest step in the road for the Leechburg natives, the sons of former Apollo-Ridge coach Joe Rice, who began playing together from their earliest days in baseball.

“We're always on the same page,” Paul Rice said. “We've been doing the same signs since we were little kids.”

The signs come out in several different situations on the field — for instance, if James Rice is playing second base and Paul wants to attempt a pickoff throw from his catching position if a runner is leaning the wrong way after a pitch.

“We can read each other's minds,” James Rice said. “If we see a guy getting a big secondary lead, we both give each other the signal, like, ‘Let's get this guy out.' Pitching-wise, when I'm pitching, I rarely have to shake him off when he's calling pitches.”

That kind of unspoken relationship is paying dividends. And it doesn't hurt, of course, that they're producing on the field as well. James, a Mount Aloysius recruit, is hitting .396 with four doubles and nine RBIs and has pitched 13 innings. Paul is batting .377 with three doubles, two triples and 21 RBIs.

“When we won the section against Jeannette, James was the final pitcher and Paul was the catcher,” GCC coach Dennis Reist said. “It was kind of neat to see that.”

The Rice brothers get their signals crossed in one area — determining which one excels in a particular area. James Rice claimed supremacy in football, which Paul acknowledged, and basketball, which Paul disputed.

The elder Rice did give his younger brother credit in one area.

“He's better with the ladies,” James said. “He's smooth with girls. I don't know what it is.”

Said their father, Joe Rice: “Anything can turn into a game at any time, and they constantly will push each other to go higher. Usually, what I like to do is get them competing with me because I'm pretty competitive, too. They crush me because they're so much more athletic than I am now.”

James Rice gave Paul a major boost when his younger brother came to GCC for his freshman year, helping him get acclimated to the school and to the team. Reist said Paul is paying that leadership forward by helping freshman backup catcher Alex Miller.

“(He) definitely helped because you don't know people that well,” Paul Rice said. “You instantly have a throwing partner. You instantly have someone to go to if you forget a name or if you just need help with something. Especially someone like James because he's looked out for me since Day 1.”

James Rice played on GCC's 2015 WPIAL championship team, and the brothers started last season, when the Centurions lost 1-0 to Clarion in the PIAA semifinals.

“We have the game ball from that game,” James Rice said. “Until we reach our goal, that ball's going to be with us. We were this close last year. Let's go out and finish this thing.”

GCC lost in the WPIAL semifinals to Union but rallied to beat section rival Jeannette in the consolation game and earn a spot in the state playoff bracket.

“It didn't turn out the way we wanted to in WPIALs, but then again, nothing turns out the way you expect,” Paul Rice said. “Our goal was to win sections, WPIALs and states, but I'll take two out of three.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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